Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Justice

Tarot of the Master by Giovanni Vacchetta , Lo Scarabeo 2002

There is a movement beginning in the United States that started with a small, rag-tag group that decided to protest something intangible but felt tangibly by millions of people.  Occupy Wallstreet began on September 17 in response to a call by Adbusters on July 13.  Since then, thousands of people have taken to the streets of New York and the protest has spread to other cities in the US.  The protests are not springing forth from any particular political party and the agenda isn't entirely clear except that people are sick and tired of being treated as if 99 percent of the population are disposable by a small, wealth-controlling minority.  We're tired of electing public officials that tell us one thing but relinquish their promises in favor of the whims of those who bought and paid for them to secure office.  What the protesters are seeking is Justice, both karmic and legal.  It's rather fitting that the protests are still going on and this month is the anniversary of peace activist John Lennon's birthday.  He once said, "If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."   He firmly believed that the people already possess the power to change things, but they aren't aware of the incredible power they already have.  He devoted a significant amount of his life and resources to advertise for peace, to helping people become aware of the power we have, both individually and collectively, to change the world. 

So often we think the power lies "out there" and it's all a matter of  what other people and forces do that affect us, but we're the ones that create and shape our world.  Justice always seems like an "other" type of force, something outside of us that decides for or against us.  Thing is, we are the ones that set Justice in motion. Even if one views her as a kind of karmic balancer, rather than an internal virtue, then she is still profoundly influenced by our actions: past, present, and future.  St. Thomas Aquinas defined justice as the constant and perpetual will to render to everyone his due. Injustice, then, occurs when a person or group receives either less or more than what is due to them.  The problem, as Lennon observed, is in the lack of awareness that most people possess, either because of apathy or ignorance.  People who are educated, informed, and aware of injustice react to it, almost instinctively, and seek to set things to right again.  The only way a small, albeit powerful, group could have succeeded in tipping the scales so profoundly in their favor and against the majority without Justice intervening is because the majority wasn't looking or they thought Justice is something done by others and not something they themselves produce by their own decisions and actions.  
Ancient Minchiate Etruria by Pietro Alligo, Lo Scarabeo 1996


It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered. ~Aristotle


Among the opponents of the recent protests are those who think the people who are protesting are just pissed off that other people are wealthy and have made something of themselves and that the protests are nothing more than folks with a bad case of sour grapes. What I see instead is the awakening of many people to the reality that we, both individually and collectively, wield Justice's sword.  While it is true that Justice represents the decisions made by the "powers that be," what is often overlooked is that we are the creators of those offices, those powers, and it isn't by divine right that those in power maintain their positions.  It is all of human artifice and design and therefore can be balanced only by human influence.  


Because Justice is a Major Arcana card in the tarot deck, the idea that its power is "fated" or "destined" and is somehow outside of one's control comes into play in many tarot readings.  It isn't entirely untrue, that interpretation.  As a society, we do vest power in our legal institutions to decide for us, on our behalf.  Therefore, when we find ourselves in a situation in which our "fate" must be decided by they who are granted those powers, we can feel quite powerless in the court of Justice.  And while our power may be limited in its influence in that moment, we are not powerless.  Sometimes Justice rules in our favor and sometimes she doesn't, but nevertheless when Justice is served we know it.  It's when we see the scales of Justice totally off kilter that something within rises up, attempts to seize the sword from her hand and start hacking away at whatever resides on the weighty side, and yes, that is our right and duty.  It is at Justice's invitation and and plea that we act upon that inner sense of hers inside of us that ultimately determines her final decree.

The problem with human justice is that it is limited by our perceptions.  All the checks and balances placed within the system can be circumvented and corrupted by the very people who rely on it to serve them.  There is a well-known story in the Gospel of John called the "Pericope de Adultera" about Jesus and the woman taken in adultery.  The governing authorities brought a woman who had been caught "in the very act" (ahem) of adultery to Jesus for dispensing of justice.  The story illustrates something very important about not only Justice, but who should, and more importantly, who should not wield her sword.  Adultery was a capital offense in ancient Jewish society and the sentence was to be carried out by stoning the offender.  When the officials brought the woman to be judged, the crowd gathered with stones in their hands in order to, they thought and believed, exact justice.  All too often, this is how most of us respond to the call to justice.  We follow what we have been taught and so believe to be right.  Our inner scales are already weighted with our customs, our upbringing, our cultural mores.  With one sentence, Jesus strips the blindfold off Justice by saying, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."  The statement blatantly reveals that not one of us is unbiased, impartial, nor unstained with personal opinion that renders the human being incapable and indeed unworthy of passing such a serious judgement upon another.  


All we can do is strive to balance the scales, but we must do so in the understanding that our perceptions are probably skewed and that perfect human justice is probably unattainable.  No social movement will ultimately "fix things."  However, that should never stop us from trying.  The next time Justice appears in a reading, consider where balance ought to be restored and how one might contribute to that effort.  If it indicates you are in the position to "render judgement" then consider carefully that you, too, carry the human flaw of bias.  If you are the defendant in Justice's court, don't lose heart or feel powerless, but seek to understand your own influence in the events.  In human affairs, Justice is something we all work to achieve, but never quite possess.





 

12 comments:

AngeloNasios said...

Great post Ginny! Love it

Helen said...

As always Ginny a thought provoking post.

You know when Justice shows up in a reading my first thoughts is that it is often asking one to look at themselves as objectively as they can in order to understand who they really are, and where they stand in the situation.


Great post!

Ginny said...

Absolutely, Helen! Impartiality is helpful, but I think recognizing we can never be entirely free of bias and so do not really have the overarching ability to accurately judge even ourselves much less someone else. I think this Occupy Movement is, by not aligning with any particular cause, group, or political party, trying to remain as impartial as possible in order to effectively both judge the "crimes" and seek justice as well. Carry on! I dare hope, as they do, for justice to prevail.

Helen said...

I think you are absolutely right Ginny.

Pietra said...

A thing that always comes to me when Justice shows is that it is never blind. She is always aware, there is no scalping. And it is a good thing. Everyone likes a complement when a nice work is done... Everyone needs to pay attention what was not so well done.

Ginny said...

Agree, Pietra. In fact, the earliest images we have of Justice the virtue, she does not have her blindfold. That was a later addition that was supposed to represent impartiality, but I think it tends to make us think she doesn't get all the info. So I would rather an unblindfolded Justice, myself.

kerewin said...

I've just discovered your blog today and I really enjoy it!

Ginny said...

Welcome, kerewin! There is a lot here to dig into. Enjoy!

kerewin said...

Thanks for the warm welcome Ginny :)

You are right, there is much to digest here. I was looking to read about your persepctive on reading tarot for yourself. I've read a lot of opinions that say DONT DO IT! But that strategy doesn't sit well with me, most likely due to not having enough information about WHY.

Can you share your feelings on that or direct me to a specific post you've written on that already?

I would greatly appreciate it.

-K

Ginny said...

Hi kerewin,

Reading for oneself is tricky because of our lack of objectivity to the question/subject. I have found when the subject matter is very important to me, when I have emotional confusion or intense emotions surrounding the subject, I am less able to feel "settled" with the results of my readings for myself and tend to doubt my own perceptions more. However, that said, I learned to read tarot by reading for myself and so many others do the same. After all, who else but oneself is the best guinea pig and willing victim? ;) I did a post on this a while back: The Tarot Mirror http://78notes.blogspot.com/2007/06/tarot-mirror.html

Warpsludge the Warlock said...

I believe what we can change is ourselves. Then the world will change. Those fighting against the corrupt leaders of today tend to become the corrupt leaders of tomorrow.

Ginny said...

Great point Warpsludge. Our own country's history bears this out. When those who had been religiously persecuted set up a safe haven in Boston for themselves, they, in turn, began to religiously persecute others who did not align themselves with their beliefs, going so far as to exile and even execute them.

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